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Cold and Snowy February in 2019

Cold and Snowy February in 2019:

The cold temperature trend from the second half of January has re-established itself around the state in February, but this time coupled with widespread significant snowfalls (the first of which came over February 4-5). For many climate stations in the state this month is already the snowiest of the winter season so far, with reports of 10 to 20 inches in many places. Cloquet and Moose Lake reported over 10 inches alone on February 7th, while MSP reported a new record amount for the date of 5.7 inches. Many parts of the state were under a Blizzard Warning for February 7th.

All of the models point to a continuation of the cold and snow for much of the month. Historically, February is the snowiest month of the snow season only about a tenth of all years, so this is kind of rare. The last time February was the snowiest month was the winter of 2015-2016. We all know that March and April can bring over 20 inches of snow, so it is perhaps too early to think that February of 2019 will be the snowiest month.

Records Galore from January 29-31 Arctic Outbreak:

Last week on MPR’s morning edition I underestimated how many daily temperature records were tied or broken during the Arctic Outbreak of January 29-31. Checking the official observational networks in Minnesota it looks like over those 3 days 107 daily lowest minimum temperature records were set and 133 lowest (coldest) daily maximum temperature records were set. Some of the records set were from climate stations with long records of observation. Among these were:

A new coldest ever maximum temperature on January 29th at Big Falls with -23°F
A new coldest ever maximum temperature on January 30th at Crookston with -22°F
A new coldest ever maximum temperature on January 31st at Morris with -21°F
A new all-time state minimum temperature record for January 31st of -56°F at Walker and Cotton

Not surprising that so many records were set over those three days as the average daily temperatures around the state were 30 to 35 degrees colder than normal.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

This week NOAA News features an article about states that are actively engaging in both climate adaptation and climate mitigation strategies to improve resilience and preserve environmental quality.

There were two powerful tropical cyclones in the Southern Indian Ocean this week. Cyclone Funani developed east of La Reunion Island and proceeded SE into the Indian Ocean with winds of 115-120 mph and wave heights of 50 feet. It is not expected to be a threat to land. Cyclone Celena was spinning off the northeast coast of Madagascar with winds of 110-115 mph and wave heights of 35 feet. It may pose a threat to Mauritius Island by Saturday.

MPR listener question:

What is the difference between polar vortex cold and regular cold below zero temps in Minnesota? It seems normal for Minnesota to have really cold weather in winter. Are polar vortex cold snaps associated with climate change?


No simple answer here. The polar vortex can be a dynamic forcing mechanism for sending very cold air that originates in the Arctic latitudes down to Minnesota. This was the case in 2014 and again this winter. The polar vortex (a high latitude low pressure system) can influence trajectory of the Polar Jet Stream and allow Arctic Air to spill down to lower latitudes. But it is not always the dominant forcing mechanism. Sometimes a very strong low pressure system can cross the USA through the central plains or even the southern plains states and draw an Arctic High Pressure system down behind it to fill the void. Such was the case in February 1899, 1936, and 1996.

Twin Cities Almanac for February 8th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 27 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 10 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for February 8th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 50 degrees F in 2002; lowest daily maximum temperature of -19 degree F in 1899; lowest daily minimum temperature of -29 degrees F in 1899; highest daily minimum temperature of 36 degrees F in 1966; record precipitation of 1.08 inches in 1966. Record snowfall is 5.0 inches also in 1905.

Average dew point for February 8th is 8°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 39°F in 1966; and the minimum dew point on this date is -32°F in 1971.

All-time state records for February 8th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 66 degrees F at Madison (Lac Qui County) in 1991. The state record low temperature for this date is -55 degrees F at Warroad Dam (Roseau County) in 1933. The state record precipitation for this date is 1.35 inches at St James (Watonwan County) in 1947. Record snowfall for this date is 15.0 inches at Grand Marais (Cook County) in 1937.

Past Weather Features:

The coldest February 8th in state history was in 1933 when an Arctic High Pressure system brought subzero record cold to most parts of the state. Over 20 climate stations reported a minimum temperature of -40°F or colder, with seven communities reporting -50°F or colder. The high temperature at Thief River Falls only made it to -25 degrees F.

Both February 8th of 1987 and 1991 brought a taste of Spring to Minnesota. Under sunny skies and soft southerly winds temperatures climbed into the 60s F across southern and western counties.


Cold weekend with slight chances for snow flurries both Saturday and Sunday. A bit warmer on Monday (closer to normal), but chances for snow Monday night and Tuesday. Another chance for snow by Thursday of next week as well. Temperatures will remain 5 to 15 degrees F below normal throughout the period.

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Joel Rosen said…
Hi Mark -- So far this February, I've recorded 21.6" of snow. In 2001, I recorded 35" of February snow, and 30.5" in February 2014. Currently (and surprisingly), February ranks as the second snowiest month at 13.5" average, with December currently at 14.9" average. Records span August 1987 through the present. I'm located about 30 miles west southwest of the head of Lake Superior, near Park Lake in Carlton County.

Joel Rosen